Utahns confident in current business conditions but think conditions will get slightly worse

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The Zions Bank Utah Consumer Attitude Index decreased 1.9 points to 113.9 in January. The year-over-year CAI dropped by 4 points. In comparison, the national Consumer Confidence Index® decreased 6.4 points to 120.2 this month.

The Utah Present Situation Index slipped 1.1 points to 131.0 from December to January, while jumping 5.8 points from January 2018 to January 2019, mainly due to a large improvement in Utahns’ perception of the job market. A majority of Utahns — 63 percent — think jobs are plentiful right now, up eight percent from January 2018. In comparison, only eight percent of Utahns feel jobs are hard to get in today’s economy.

The Utah Expectations Index also dipped from December to January, decreasing 2.5 points to 102.5. Yet unlike the Present Situation Index, the Expectations Index declined from January of last year, sinking 10.6 points. While 27 percent of Utahns expect business conditions will get better in the next six months, 12 percent of Utahns feel they will get worse. The number of Utahns with a negative business outlook is up eight percent from last year at its highest level since December 2013.

Much of Utahns’ uncertainty about the future of Utah’s economy could stem from their feelings about national economic prospects; 29 percent of Utahns believe it is unlikely that the U.S. economy will improve in the next 12 months, an increase of four percent since last month and the highest point since November 2016. Similarly, the number of Utahns indicating that the federal government is doing a “poor job” with economic policy increased 12 percent since last month, to 34 percent, the highest level since December 2017.

For the second consecutive month, Utahns’ confidence in stock market growth remained at a two-year low.

“The stock market’s recent volatility is impacting consumer attitudes across Utah,” said Scott Anderson, Zions Bank president and CEO. “But that doesn’t mean Utahns have given up on the stock market. About 41 percent of Utahns believe their 401(k) will yield a positive rate of return over the next year compared to 23 percent who think that a positive return is unlikely.”

An important factor regarding Utah consumer spending patterns is how much exposure consumers feel they might have to future conditions, according to Randy Shumway, chairman and partner of Cicero Group.

“Although some Utahns feel that general business conditions will get worse, they also feel that their incomes are stable,” Shumway said. “This indicates that while there is concern about macro policy factors, individual consumers feel secure with regards to their personal economic situation.”

In fact, 95 percent of Utahns believe their income will grow or stay the same over the next six months.

Zions Bank provides the CAI as a free resource to the communities of Utah. The monthly CAI summary reports are released at a monthly press conference, coinciding with The Conference Board’s national CCI release date. Analysis and data collection for the CAI are done by Cicero Group, a premier data-driven strategy and research firm based in Salt Lake City.